SCENE: The offices of Reqtomme, Zvinkter and Tuzh, a powerful venture capital firm, whose oak-panelled walls and black-frame-spectacled employees convey a sense of importance, money and power. Mssrs Reqtomme, Zvinkter and Tuzh are sitting at an antique mahogany desk, their foreheads creased with evil and bald heads varnished to angry perfection. Dan “DJ” Smith-Smith Vorndecker is sat in an expensive chair, sweating (he hopes) imperceptibly; he is there to pitch his business to them and hopefully secure some funding. A giant metal clock over the doorframe seems to be bearing down on him like the furious god of time, each heavy tick a rhythmic note of karmic disapproval.

ZVINKTER: So, Mr Smith-Smith Vorndecker. You have come to us to pitch your idea. Do you have any notion of how many funding proposals pass our desk every single day?

ANGRY MAURICE THE CLOCK GOD: Tick.

DJ: No sir.

TUZH: We get many.

REQTOMME: So many.

ZVINKTER: More than anyone could ever care to read.

REQTOMME: So why should we read yours?

TUZH: We demand to know.

DJ: Because it’s a new media business with a solid plan that will provide a good return on your long-term investment.

TUZH tuts.

ANGRY MAURICE: Tock.

ZVINKTER: That’s what they all say, Mr Smith-Smith Vorndecker. They have all come to us over the years. All of them.

REQTOMME: Boo.com.

TUZH: Pets.com.

ZVINKTER: Dave Winer’s Glistening, Prone Body .com.

REQTOMME: That site where you provided your credit card number and they took your money and turned it into XML.

ZVINKTER: We have seen each and every one go down the drain, and alas, we demanded a return on our investment.

TUZH: We took their cars …

REQTOMME: … their homes …

ZVINKTER: … their credit ratings.

REQTOMME: We took their children and turned them into broth.

ZVINKTER: What is to say your children won’t become soup, Mr Smith-Smith Vorndecker?

TUZH: Pitch your idea, Mr Smith-Smith Vorndecker.

REQTOMME: Pitch it well.

ANGRY MAURICE: Tick.

DJ: Popester.

REQTOMME: Pardon me?

DJ: We’re proposing that the 21st century needs a new kind of pope. The last one was too frail, too centralised; eventually he became old and died. There was an expensive funeral, the cardinals had to knock him on the head with a hammer, and now the time-consuming process of selecting another pope has to be begun.

Why should we go through this costly process again? Shouldn’t the pope be impervious to harm, even from silver hammers and nuclear war? Shouldn’t the pope last forever?

In short, we’re proposing a distributed pope.

ANGRY MAURICE: Tock.

TUZH: A distributed …

REQTOMME: … pope?

ZVINKTER: How do you possibly expect to make money with a pope?

ANGRY MAURICE: Tick.

DJ: Simple. We load the pope with spyware and let it loose in the minds of the unprepared. For the right money, we can direct a user’s prayers to the god of our choosing; if the Hindus pay enough, we can direct catholic prayers to Vishnu. Buddhists will find Jesus in their meditations and atheists will find their lack of faith directed at the competitor of our client’s choosing. Family planning nurses will find they no longer believe in contraception and child pornography investigators will suddenly take up macramé.

ZVINKTER clenches his fists and launches them ceilingwards

ZVINKTER: Excellent! Have you made such a thing?

DJ: Yes, we’ve written it in Papal C.

ANGRY MAURICE: Tock.

REQTOMME: How deviously splendid.

TUZH: This Popester … can we make it work with iPods?

DJ: Absolutely. We call it Popecasting; believers jack into an RCC feed and get the pope straight to their iPod, proselytising in their pocket. We’ve also got plans for an iPope, available in lemon, puce, gangrene and jam.

ZVINKTER: The merchandising opportunities are virtually endless!

REQTOMME: Endless!

ANGRY MAURICE: Tick.

TUZH: What does God think?

REQTOMME: Yes, what does God think?

DJ: Steve gives his approval as long as he gets to play electric guitar at the launch.

ZVINKTER: Splendid. How soon can we release?

TUZH: We must prepare the marketing machine!

REQTOMME (raising both palms with unconstrained glee): The marketing machine!

ANGRY MAURICE: Bongggg!

DJ: We can release tomorrow. The loaders are primed, the torrents are seeded and the distributed popes are ready for action.

ZVINKTER: Mr Smith-Smith Vorndecker, we will not broth your children this Christmas. You have made an old venture capitalist very pleased.

TUZH: Very pleased.

REQTOMME: Pleased as punch.

TUZH: Punch that is very pleased.

ZVINKTER: Smug punch.

REQTOMME: Pleased as.

ZVINKTER: Splendid.

DJ leaves the office with a file under his arm and a grin in his heart. Tomorrow will be a special day; the day after, even more so. And soon all the world will have a pope in their pocket and a distributed God rocking in their brain.